Deuteronomy 20 When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. 2 When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. 3 He shall say: “Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be faint-hearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them.
The Israelites stood at the door to Canaan. But they would have to fight many battles to take possession of their inheritance, the promised land. And as Christians we also face many battles to enter fully into our inheritance in Christ, to live holy and Christ-like lives and to proclaim the gospel before a hostile world. The Christian life is no bed of roses or a picnic – it is a battlefield.
Eph 6:11 Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
So as Christians we fight spiritual battles on three fronts:
(1) The world
John 15: 18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.
1 John 2: 15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives for ever.
We must fight spiritual battles to stand firm for Christ and proclaim His saving truth against a hostile world.
(2) The flesh our fallen sin-spoiled human nature.
James 1:13 When tempted, no-one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
So often the hardest battles we face are against ourselves – to do what God wants instead of what our own selfish human nature wants.
(3) The Devil.
1 Peter 5 8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
As Christians we face a formidable adversary – the devil
In these battles against the world, the flesh and the devil, God gives us the victory.
We cannot win the spiritual battles on our own – we need God’s strength.
When we stand up for Jesus and share the gospel with others, it can be scary! The forces which stand against God’s purposes can be terrifying – but God gives the victory! That’s why Moses gives this rather strange instruction for the times when the Israelites are about to go into battle as they take possession of the Promised Land. He doesn’t say, bring on the military leaders who know how to fight battles. Bring on the good warriors. When it’s time for a battle, the instruction is, “Bring on the priest”. Not “time for some strategy” but “time for a good sermon!” Because the battle belongs to the Lord!
2 When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. 3 He shall say: “Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be faint-hearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. 4 For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”
We thought about that this morning in the promise, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. God’s blessings are for those who humbly put their trust in God as they wait for Him to intervene on their behalf. We saw the same spiritual strategy when the Israelites came to the edge of Red Sea
Exodus 14:13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
15 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.” …..
21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.
In any battles we have to face we have this promise. GOD gives us the victory!
PSALM 20: 6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. 8 They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.
Deuteronomy 20 4 For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”
Meekness and humility. Our part in the battle is simply to trust in God.
But God know that some of his chosen people are not ready for battle. And that is as true for some Christians today as it was for some of the Israelites in those days. They weren’t ready for battle. Their minds were on other things. So God graciously allows for their human weakness. If some people aren’t ready for the fight, God can win the victories without them. The Bible suggests there can be four things which can get in the way of God’s chosen people going into battle for him. Four kinds of things which could take our minds off the spiritual tasks God has for us to accomplish. If we wanted to be clever we could come up with four headings each beginning with the same letter!
WEALTH – Preoccupation with possessions
We do all need somewhere to live. It is good to have enough clothes and enough to eat. It is so easy to look beyond what we need to set our hearts on what we might like to enjoy. And God understands this.
5 The officers shall say to the army: “Has anyone built a new house and not dedicated it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else may dedicate it.
WORK – Preoccupation with our careers
It is important to give ourselves to our jobs – to do whatever we do as if we are serving the Lord, not serving men, to do everything wholeheartedly. It is so easy to get caught up in career and success and promotion. And God understands this.
6 Has anyone planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else enjoy it.
WOMEN – Preoccupation with relationships
Relationships with other people are important. Especially marriage and family life are vitally important. God understands this.
7 Has anyone become pledged to a woman and not married her? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else marry her.”
WORRY- Preoccupation with fear at the scale of the battle we face!
20:1When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you.
The opposing forces may appear overwhelming – we may indeed be terrified. God understands this.
8 Then the officers shall add, “Is any man afraid or faint-hearted? Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too.”
When Gideon face the Midianites in Judges 7, this was exactly the principle God commanded Gideon to use.
Judges 7:1 Early in the morning, Gideon and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 2 The LORD said to Gideon, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, 3 announce now to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’ ” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.
Spiritual battle is not for wimps. And God understands that!
Someone asked an ex-paratrooper how many jumps he had made. He responded by saying, “None! I was pushed out 18 times!” That is a sad picture of the lives of some Christians. We would rather avoid the spiritual battle if we possibly can!
So here were four things which could get in the way of the Israelites fighting the battles God gives us to fight. Wealth – work – women – worry. Four things which can just as easily get in our way when we seek to serve God. People whose minds are preoccupied with these things, or with anything else apart from God, are no use to God in the spiritual warfare we are engaged in. We must love the Lord God with all our soul, and all our heart, and mind, and with all our strength! If we do this all the other things will fall into place. God must be our first love! If we are to be any use to God we must not allow ourselves to be distracted by other things! God understands our weaknesses – he allows for them – but only those with courage and determination are useful to God in spiritual battles. Only those who are single minded in serving God.
Will you notice the grace of God! Those who go back to their houses aren’t criticised. They don’t lose their inheritance. Those who go back to their vineyards aren’t criticised. They don’t lose their inheritance. Those who go back to their fiancées aren’t criticised. They don’t lose their inheritance. Those who go back because they are too scared to fight aren’t criticised. They don’t lose their inheritance.
We don’t earn our spiritual inheritance by putting God first, by being singleminded for God. We don’t lose our inheritance when we put other things before God, whether it be wealth or work or women or worry or anything else. We don’t forfeit our salvation if these things hold us back. But the point is, we are of no use to God if we allow possessions or careers or relationships or fear to get in the way of serving God. We still receive the inheritance which God gives us as a free gift – but we are of no use in serving God in the spiritual battles he calls us to fight.
This is essentially what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3.
1 Corinthians 3:10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
If we want to build with silver and gold, if we want to be useful to God, we must put God first. We must put our trust in God and step out and fight the spiritual war!
To win victory in spiritual battles and to enter fully into our inheritance we have to FIGHT! We may be afraid to fight the spiritual battles we find ourselves in. But we should not be!
Deuteronomy 20 When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. 2 When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. 3 He shall say: “Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be faint-hearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. 4 For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”